The cost and availability of labor will have a large impact on the fruit industry, Jason Matson of Matson Fruit Company, Selah, Washington, predicts, and he expects to see robotic sprayers and harvesters during his lifetime.
He also foresees telemetry-controlled wind machines, a phenology model for the key pear pest, pear psylla, and a dwarfing pear rootstock that is easy to propagate and promises early production and good yields with good fruit size-a Malling 9 rootstock, but for pears.
Tighter plantings are needed to produce better yields of target fruit, he said. "We need to grow more target fruit cheaper and quicker-that’s the name of the game-and it needs to be easy."
Geoff Thornton, an orchardist at Tonasket, Washington, said innovations will happen and growers need to be open minded about them.
"My oldest son’s 13, and he packs around a laptop that his grandma got him like I used to pack around a BB gun," Thornton said. "We’re going to have mechanical harvesters. I’m not that interested in platforms. I want a machine that will pick my fruit and get it done. And it’s got to be easy to implement."